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“Ethiopia doesn’t detain journalists,” Negeri Lencho

These days Negeri Lencho, Ethiopia Minister of the Government Communication Affairs Office, is making the rounds at various media houses: BBC, Deutsche Welle, VOA, foreign-based ruling party friendly media, EBC are just to mention but a few. 

As the new kid on the block in the cabinet of PM Hailemariam Desalegn, Dr Negeri is creating an impression that he is open to all who seek his attention. In comparison to his combatant predecessor, Negeri is plain and soft spoken, devoid of party lingo, and above all professor of journalism at Addis Ababa University. What better preparation for the post!

However, the one thing he lacks most is the information itself. He could barely come up with a conclusive answer about his former colleague at the AAU when he was arrested shortly after a trip to Brussels. Lawyers and activists fared far better, concerning Dr Merera Gudina’s arrest, than the central figure entrusted with communicating state information. At the VOA interview, he even dared to say the “government was protecting Dr. Merera.” It’s anybody’s knowledge who sought protection from whom.

After hours of interviews given to the aforementioned media, there is hardly a revelation or some kind of breakthrough that is worth mentioning. Instead his understanding of the incarceration of journalists is clearly a cause for concern, if not outrage.

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